Refereeing is one of the most critical and thankless jobs in the realm of sport. A keen eye for detail, the ability to take split-second decisions, the temperament to ensure fair play and the intense pressure that comes with the necessity and importance of being accurate all the time, the job of a referee is indeed a demanding one. this time looks beyond the stars of the game to sneak a peek into the lives of people who ensure that VIVO Pro Kabaddi is conducted smoothly on the mat. Kripa Shankar Sharma, former player at the national level with three medals, is one of them and has officiated some of the most high profile matches of Season 5. It’s been quite a ride for him since taking up refereeing at the age of 21!

Sharma’s father loved the sport and that meant the raider developed an early penchant for the game. Much later, he got a refereeing job through the sports quota. What prompted him to do that was the fact that he knew the game well, that he knew the various challenges refereeing entailed, that it was a job where one wrong decision could change the outcome of the game and bring agony to one side of the mat.

“I feel that the challenges are easy for me to face because I have played this game. I know how much a wrong decision will impact the game and make a team suffer. I always focus on the game and I try to make the right decision because one wrong decision and it can change the game,” Sharma told in an exclusive interview.

Sharma also credited VIVO Pro Kabaddi with giving the sport popularity and bringing it out of oblivion. “It’s a very big platform and where kabaddi was before and where it is now is just because of Pro Kabaddi. We did not have any recognition before but because of this league now everyone knows us across the globe. So it really feels good,” he said.

There is often talk about players being under pressure during matches but Sharma was quick to point out that referees were no different and faced pressure in equal proportions. “We have a lot of discussions about a particular decision. If we have to review, we see it more than a hundred times and come to a decision. I also take a lot of guidance from one of our senior referees, Mr Ajit. If I have any problem with decision-making, I ask him. This is because the more we discuss the easier it becomes for us to give a decision in the match,” he said.

Sharma also didn’t hide his respect - to the extent of veneration - for Janardan Singh Gehlot, President of International Kabaddi Federation, who he believes has served kabaddi unconditionally and it’s all because of his efforts that the game has flourished the way it has in the last few years.

“I think where kabaddi is today is all because of Mr Janardan Singh Gehlot. He dedicated his entire life to kabaddi and it’s only because of him that kabaddi is at this level today. He first started international teams. He prepared Sri Lanka, Bhutan and started a championship for them, while slowly promoting kabaddi in the process. He really supports us a lot and whenever he sees anyone performing well he comes and motivates that person more. I think he is a complete role model for all of us,” he concluded.